Germany, France and Italy brace for political change. Why markets care


French President Emmanuel Macron and Italy’s Prime Minister Mario Draghi.

Alessandra Benedetti – Corbis | Corbis News | Getty Images

The balance of power is changing in the European Union’s three largest economies which could have significant implications for financial markets.

Germany has just turned the page on Angela Merkel’s 16 years of leadership, France is bracing itself for an uncertain presidential election in the spring, and Italy is anxiously waiting to find out whether Mario Draghi will leave his prime ministerial post.

“We may well be in for a rather profound ‘watershed moment,’ with significant positive implications for policies,” Erik Nielsen, group chief economist at UniCredit, said in a note to clients in December.

Germany

“The new German government will bring in significant reforms in Germany, if less headline-grabbing and straightforward then desirable, and it will, very likely, also facilitate reforms in Europe,” Nielsen said.

The newly established government has promised to decarbonize the German economy and to invest in digitalization. At the same time, its idea is also to follow a sound fiscal policy from 2023 onward, once stimulus to deal with the pandemic has been faded out.

These targets are likely to influence European discussions on how to update the fiscal rulebook — a topic that market players are following closely. The euro zone has had strict deficit and debt targets, but there has been a lack of enforcement of these rules. In addition, others question whether these targets are still valid in a post-pandemic world. How much governments will spend, and where, could have direct implications for the bond market.

The German economy should stage an impressive comeback as European growth champion 2022.

“Previous government stimulus plus the new government’s impressive investment policies will unfold in 2022 and lead to stellar growth performance,” analysts at ING said in a note in December.

The German economy grew 2% in the second quarter of 2021 and 1.7% in the third quarter, according to the national statistics office. In the whole of 2020, GDP dropped by almost 5%.

These numbers have been significantly impacted by the pandemic and supply chain issues.

“As soon as global supply chain frictions start to abate and the fourth wave of the pandemic is behind us, industrial production will strongly rebound, private consumption will start to pick up and investments will flourish and the German economy should stage an impressive comeback as European growth champion 2022,” he added.

In October, the International Monetary Fund projected a GDP growth rate of 4.6% for Germany in 2022 — this was higher than the estimates for France and Italy.

France

French voters are heading to the polls in late April. Incumbent President Emmanuel Macron has not yet announced his intention to run for a second mandate. However, he is currently polling first among all candidates.

But there is plenty of time for voter polls to change, even more so as new candidates formalize their plans for the presidency.

Eric Zemmour, an anti-immigration candidate, is seen as a threat to the likeminded politician Marine Le Pen. Meanwhile, the arrival of Valerie Pecresse…



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